View Full Version : Novelisation of the adapted screenplay of a novel

02-15-2003, 06:11 PM
I'm not sure what forum this question is best suited to so I tried Books. Has anyone heard of writing a novel based on a movie that was originally based on a novel?

Does the concept sound weird. I can explain the premise a little better but was curious if this happened. I know novels are made from movies but I think these are typically original movies.

Thx, julian

JakeSchuster aka Ostroff
02-15-2003, 09:44 PM
Julian, This involves a ton of copyright issues. If there's a movie based on a novel, chances are that the tie-in (if that's what you're looking for) will be a re-edition of the novel itself, priced somewhat higher--and with a tie-in cover--than the previous reissue.

To rewrite the novel based on the script, and using the same title, would be a pointless and unrewarding exercise. The only possibility of some joy with this may be if the original novel has long been out of print. In which case a novelisation may be welcome. But it's a long shot, and before you apply fingers to keyboard I'd thoroughly investigate all rights issues by way of publisher and agents. My advice is not to get involved in the process till you've checked it all out.

02-16-2003, 09:46 AM

Thanks for the reply. I'll give you some insight into my madness. I've sold the film rights to a published novel that I authored (I had retained the film rights). I wrote the screenplay adaptation and pushed the original story further to the point that there's more in the movie than the novel.

As you noted it could be pointless but I'm debating whether the movie material could be developed into it's own novel. It'd retain some of the original novel yet be very different due to passing through the screenplay adaptation process.

I think I have a handle on the legal issues but wondered from a creative standpoint whether this had been attempted. The obvious pitfall is that the new novel might end up as a pale imitation of the original but I understand that.

Thx , julian

JakeSchuster aka Ostroff
02-16-2003, 10:20 AM
Okay, well that changes the whole dynamic of the thing, as it's your book to begin with. A revised once-published work is not unprecedented. John Fowles did it with The Magus. And in music, Stravinsky was notorious for going back to an already-publshed work, changing the odd B into B-flat and renegotiating rights for further fees.

My advice would be to speak to your agent (assuming you have one) and to your editor. If your book is out-of-print, and was at least critically successful, and your publisher (or, better, a paperback imprint) would be interested in coming out with a revised version, then you might have a chance.

As I see it, and being more realistic, if your screen adaptation is actually produced, you might have a chance of bringing out the revised version. But, to be honest, I doubt it. It's a complicated matter for audiences when something like this is done (and Fowles did a lot of pre-publicity for the Magus revision, to not a great deal of approbation or money--a lot of people had already read the thing and were no eager to go back for a second read, all for the sake of a new scene or two), and I expect that if your screenplay is indeed produced, a paperback publisher will bring out the original with a tie-in cover. Take the money and run.

I know how you feel; you've revisited a work and can now see how it can be improved. But I also understand how this can end up like a bad case of wheel-spinning. In your shoes, I would hope the script sells and move on to a new project.

PM me if you have any more questions.

JakeSchuster aka Ostroff
02-16-2003, 10:22 AM
Just noticed from your profile that you're in Boston. I'm about half-an-hour away on a good traffic day (ha-ha!). A foot-and-a-half of snow already on the ground and another foot expected by Tuesday. Did you hear that it doesn't snow in Malibu?

02-16-2003, 07:14 PM
I think that you need to consider what rights you have sold and have retained.

Were the film rights actually sold, or are they only optioned? If the option is not exercised, then you'll retain your rights.

Has the production company developed your screenplay beyond your own drafts? If another writer has been employed, then the contributions by other writers would normally be the property of the production company.

Once your novel is published and distributed, bringing out a new edition is liable to cause considerable confusion to your audience. Adding new chapters to expand the story may be seen as a bonus; but, changing characters, dialog, and plot-lines may be best left to a new edition, after a film is produced.

I am familiar with Charles Hoy Fort's novel, "The Outcast Manufacturers," which was published as a novel in 1909. After gaining some literary attention, a serialized version was begun in "Pearson's Magazine" but never completed. Fort thus revised about two-thirds of his novel, (for the better, in my opinion), but the change of editors at Pearson's obviously did not appreciate his efforts. I am adapting the two versions into a screenplay, but I would not think of trying to market a new edition of this novel with the changes that I am making within the screenplay.

JakeSchuster aka Ostroff
02-16-2003, 10:46 PM
The difference, though, is that Julian's dealing with his own novel. To change another--even dead--author's work becomes very complicated, even if the work is out of copyright. Julian can by all rights revise his work. The issue is whether it's feasible or not. Typically, the author of a novel retains his or her film rights. I once had a novel of mine optioned over a period of time. A script was written (though not by me), talent was attached, a shoot date scheduled, and the major investor pulled out.

The script does occasionally go out, though at this point over my dead body. I'm going to adapt it sooner or later, and as I own the rights to the book it's mine no matter what. But if a film is eventually made, the book will probably be reprinted. And even though the way I envision the adaptation will be very radically different from the setting and characters in the novel (though true to the story and character arcs), I have no problem whatsoever in seeing the book come out, however it may differ from the picture.

My advice to Julian was simply to move on. Hindsight is wonderfully frustrating with something we've written in the past. we can always see how it can be improved. But that's a meal we've already eaten, so to speak, and it's time to find another recipe.

02-17-2003, 10:58 AM
Great advice. Thx

03-03-2003, 02:31 PM
It has been done before (but I can't remember the book/movie). I think it was a classic made into a movie and then novelized in modern language.

Try a search engine - just put in the thread title and see what pops out.

- Bill

03-03-2003, 02:38 PM
Just put the thread title into a search engine and here's what popped up first:

archive.salon.com/books/l...print.html (http://archive.salon.com/books/letters/2001/08/10/novelization_fathers/print.html)

The second thing on the list was the NOVELIZATION of LORD OF THE RINGS (the movie)... so there's a good recent example for you!

- Bill